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An article today from FiveThirtyEight (a Chappell Smith and Arden  favorite) reveals a disturbing trend in child support awards across the country: White custodial parents receive awards of child support at a substantially higher rate than do Black and Hispanic parents.

The statistical gurus at FiveThirtyEight employed the 2011 census data from the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze various comparative figures related to child support awards granted by family courts across the United States. What they found was startling: White custodial parents were 15.7% more likely to receive awards of child support than Black custodial parents and 7.9% more likely than Hispanic custodial parents.

Chappell Smith and Arden, P.A. Child Support Data

The author of the article notes that “race and marital status are probably related” as marriage ratios are higher among White parents than among Hispanic and Black parents. However, this point begs two questions.

First, why does the marital status of a custodial parent have such a notable impact on the prevalence of child support? And second, even those custodial parents who have never been married (and thus had their child out-of-wedlock and never subsequently married) receive child support at a rate that is 3.2% greater than Black custodial parents (a statistical category that would include both divorced, separated, and newly married parents).

There may well be a race-neutral explanation for these disparities (and my areas of focus certainly do not encompass family law), but I can’t find one on the basis of this article, alone.

Graham Newman, a Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. attorney, focuses his practice on class actions and complex litigation. Graham currently teaches a class at the University of South Carolina Honors College on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

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